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198 convicted for unrest in China's Xinjiang: province chief

China promises more development in restive Xinjiang, Tibet
Beijing (AFP) March 5, 2010 - China's Premier Wen Jiabao vowed on Friday to promote growth and development in the restive regions of Xinjiang and Tibet, where violent protests against communist rule have triggered a huge clampdown. "We will focus on formulating and implementing policies for economic and social development in Xinjiang, Tibet and Tibetan ethnic areas," Wen said in his "state of the nation" speech to open the annual session of parliament. Wen also pledged to strengthen the capabilities of the People's Armed Police, a large paramilitary force tasked with squelching domestic unrest, an issue in minority regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang.

Ethnic tensions in the two western regions have triggered violent protests in the past two years, sparking a tough security crackdown mixed with softer government pledges to improve people's lives. In March 2008, riots against alleged government repression erupted in Tibet's capital Lhasa. China says 21 people were killed by "rioters" and that security forces killed one "insurgent". But the Tibetan government-in-exile, headed by the exiled Dalai Lama, claimed that more than 200 people were killed and some 1,000 hurt in the unrest and subsequent crackdown. Then in July 2009, Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang region -- which is home to more than eight million mainly Muslim Uighurs who have long chafed under Chinese rule -- was the scene of deadly ethnic riots.

The government has said nearly 200 people were killed and 1,600 injured in the violence, which pitted Uighurs against members of China's dominant Han majority. China has already invested enormous amounts of money in developing ethnic minority areas to raise living standards. Xinjiang's economy, for example, quadrupled to 400 billion yuan (60 billion dollars) in 2008 as compared with 1997, the state-run Xinhua news reported last year. But Tibet and Xinjiang exiles have criticised this as harmful to their culture, and say that the majority Han often get a disproportionate slice of the economic pie. The government has a policy of transferring members of the Han population to Xinjiang and Tibet to consolidate Beijing's authority -- a move that has exacerbated resentment among the locals.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) March 7, 2010
China has so far convicted 198 people for involvement in deadly ethnic violence last July in its restive western region of Xinjiang, with more sentencings to come, a top official said Sunday.

Nearly 200 people were killed and up to 1,600 injured when unrest exploded into street riots in the Xinjiang regional capital Urumqi -- some of the worst ethnic violence in China in decades.

"The investigations, prosecution and trials are still going on and the final figure of the people sentenced will be larger," Nur Berkri, Xinjiang chairman, told journalists on the sidelines of the nation's annual parliament.

The convictions were handed down in 97 separate cases, he said.

He refused to say how many defendants were sentenced to death or how many had been executed, but according to state press reports 26 have so far received capital punishment and at least nine have already been put to death.

Most of the names of those sentenced to death appeared to be Uighur, a largely Muslim ethnic minority that has chafed for decades under China's rule in Xinjiang, a region that borders Central Asia.

The July violence initially erupted with Uighurs attacking Han Chinese, but in subsequent days mobs of Han roamed the streets seeking revenge.

Uighurs say the violence was sparked when police cracked down harshly on peaceful demonstrations in Urumqi that were held to protest the beating deaths of two Uighur migrant workers at a factory in southern China.

Nur Berkri insisted that the violence was the work of terrorists, separatists and religious extremists and not linked to China's development policies in the impoverished region.

He said the violence underscored the government's belief that its fight against separatism in Xinjiang would be a long and complicated one.

"There are a few secessionists who are reluctant to see the people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang living a happy life under the leadership of China's Communist Party," he said.

"They will do everything possible to sabotage ethnic relations, distort Xinjiang's history, and advocate their ideas of secession... but no matter what methods they use, they are doomed to failure."

earlier related report
Uighur jailed in Sweden for spying for China: court
Stockholm (AFP) March 8, 2010 - A 62-year-old Uighur living in Sweden for the past 13 years as a political refugee was on Monday sentenced to 16 months in prison for spying for China on Uighur expatriates, a Stockholm court said.

The man, identified in court documents as Swedish citizen Babur Maihesuti, was found guilty of "aggravated illegal espionage activity" and was sentenced to one year and four months behind bars, the Stockholm district court said in a statement.

Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Central Asian people residing in northwest China's Xinjiang region, have accused Beijing of decades of religious, cultural and political oppression.

From January 2008 until June 2009, Maihesuti had collected personal information about exiled Uighurs, including details on their health, travel and political involvement, and passed it on to Beijing, the court found.

He had given the information to a Chinese diplomat and a Chinese journalist who, on assignment from the Chinese intelligence service, carried out operations in Sweden for the Chinese state.

"The activity has taken place in secret through a special system of telephone calls, (and) was also deceptive since the man did not tell the Uighurs he was dealing with he was working for the Chinese state," the court said.

The court ruled that the espionage was especially serious since Maihesuti had infiltrated the World Uighur Congress and the information passed on "could cause significant damage to Uighurs in and outside China."

There was also a danger, the court said, that by opening the door for a large power like China to spy on its nationals in Sweden, Beijing could conceivably use the network in the future for other kinds of espionage as well.

"The crime is especially egregious due to the fact that the espionage served a large power that does not fully respect human rights," the court said.

Maihesuti had claimed he had been commissioned by the World Uighur Congress to contact the Chinese diplomat and journalist to conduct secret negotiations with China, and that he had also been trying to recuperate a large sum of money owed to him by the Chinese state.

The court however did not believe his account, instead basing its verdict on what it described as "strong" prosecution evidence, including wire-tapped phone conversations and witness accounts.

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